Friar: shocking revelation #1 (5.3.229-236)

FRIAR              I will be brief, for my short date of breath

                        Is not so long as is a tedious tale.

                        Romeo, there dead, was husband to that Juliet,

                        And she, there dead, that Romeo’s faithful wife:

                        I married them, and their stol’n marriage day

                        Was Tybalt’s doomsday, whose untimely death

                        Banished the new-made bridegroom from this city,

                        For whom, and not for Tybalt, Juliet pined. (5.3.229-236)

Like Lady Montague, and Lady Capulet, and probably Montague too (and maybe even Capulet) the Friar says that he doubts he will live much longer (he too is grief-stricken, as well as full of guilt, as well as feeling his age): he’ll therefore tell the story as briefly as he can. And so he starts with the basic facts, which are also the first of the big revelations: Romeo and Juliet were husband and wife. These two lines are both parallel and partly chiastic, crossing in their construction, with the repetition of there dead (accompanied by a gesture, we might imagine) but also the pattern of Romeo/ Juliet/ she/ Romeo. Although the Friar says there dead twice, he’ll make the same gesture (if he gestures) both times; Romeo and Juliet are a single entity (and in these two lines, the same verb, was, serves both statements; it’s left implicit in the second line). Even this bald statement – Romeo and Juliet were married – is framed in a way that expresses their unity, two lines balancing and fitting in to one another, through that common verb. Was. They are now indubitably in the past tense. Then the Friar has to make his first admission of his own involvement: I married them, in secret (it was stolen). (But they were properly married.) And then a reminder of the beginning of the fatal series of events: Tybalt’s death, the banishment– and also the way in which that wasn’t so long ago – a matter of days. Everyone in the scene will remember Tybalt’s death – it was on Monday, probably early afternoon and it’s now only Thursday morning – but this is the first that anyone else present will know of the marriage. And that’s why Juliet was so upset, he concludes. (A slight over-statement: Juliet was pretty upset about Tybalt’s death. And also an understatement: yes, Tybalt’s death was untimely, but the Friar is rather glossing over the fact that it was specifically Romeo who killed him.) Juliet was indeed faithful – unto death – in that she refused even to contemplate the marriage with Paris – it was an impossibility, emotionally, psychologically, legally, and theologically. Faithful might also suggest fateful…. So that’s the Friar’s first big reveal: Romeo and Juliet, husband and wife.

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